Michigan city clerk facing 6 felonies in election fraud case

A city clerk in Michigan is facing six felony charges for allegedly forging records and falsely marking absentee ballots as invalid during the 2018 election.

The charges against Southfield city clerk Sherikia Hawkins, which stem from the Nov. 6, 2018, general election, are as follows:

- Count One. Election Law - Falsifying Returns/Records, a five-year felony and/or $1,000
- Count Two. Forgery of a Public Record, a 14-year felony
- Count Three. Misconduct in Office, a five-year felony and/or $10,000
- Count Four. Using a Computer to Commit a Crime - Election Law - Falsifying Returns/Records, a seven-year felony and/or $5,000
- Count Five. Using a Computer to Commit a Crime - Forgery of a Public Record, a 10-year felony and/or $10,000
- Count Six.  Using a Computer to Commit a Crime - Misconduct in Office, a seven-year felony and/or $5,000

Discrepancies in the Southfield voter count were brought to the Secretary of State’s attention by the Oakland County Clerk’s office, following its efforts to certify Southfield’s absentee ballots. 

Michigan State Police conducted a thorough investigation and determined that election records had been altered.

According to court documents, police found that 193 absentee voter files were changed in the city’s computer system to say they either had no signature or no return date, when they had both valid signatures and return dates. Police stated that after Oakland County Election Director Joseph Rozell found that Hawkins had submitted altered reports, his staff found the original ones in a trash can at the election division office.

“Today upon learning that the Southfield City Clerk was formally charged with multiple crimes under Michigan election law, I exercised my authority under Michigan law to exert supervisory control over local election officials and directed the clerk to refrain from administering any election while there are charges pending against her,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said. “Our elections are the foundation of our democracy, and under my and Attorney General Nessel’s administration there will be no tolerance for any actions that undermine that foundation - anywhere, anytime, by any person or official.”

Benson insisted that the alleged fraud did not affect the outcome of the election.

“All valid votes in the election were ultimately counted and the final official vote total was accurate,” she said

Hawkins, 38, of Southfield, was elected Southfield city clerk in November 2017.  Prior to election she was the city clerk of Pontiac, a non-elected position, where she was responsible for that city’s elections.

Hawkins turned herself in and was charged and arraigned late Monday morning in the 46th District Court (Southfield) on six felony counts in front of visiting judge Michelle Friedman Appel, chief judge of the 45th District Court. 

Hawkins was given a $15,000 personal bond and a probable cause conference was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Monday, Sept. 30. A preliminary examination hearing is set for Tuesday, Oct. 15, before Judge Appel.